The Oregon Highway Division had an extremely non-highway problem to deal with 50 years ago. When a dead sperm whale washed up on the beach near Florence, nobody quite knew what to do about it, but it was starting to stink. So, the Highway Division was called in, and on November 12, 1970, they put their solution into motion.
They blew up the whale with half a ton of dynamite.
And it did not go according to plan.
This all would have been plenty memorable, but what made it particularly special, a viral video before viral videos existed, was the reporting of KATU television’s Paul Linnman.
As a piece of television goes, it was the polar opposite of “Boom goes the dynamite.”
As memorable of a basketball highlight as that was, the entire sports world is full of Boomers, from longtime sportscaster Chris Berman to former quarterback Norman Esiason and, more recently, linebacker James “Boomer” Grigsby.
On the diamond, according to Baseball Reference, there have been five major leaguers with the nickname Boomer: George Scott, Ron Blomberg, Greg Wells, David Wells, and Trey Mancini. For some Pacific Northwest flavor, Nelson Cruz, Mr. Boomstick himself, spent four seasons with the Mariners and ranks sixth in team history in home runs with 163, behind Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Kyle Seager, and Alex Rodriguez.
But the winner for the most apt name in this case has to be Walter William “Boom-Boom” Beck, who debuted with the 1924 St. Louis Browns at the age of 19 and pitched until he was 40 with the 1945 Pittsburgh Pirates, with stops along the way with the Bloomington Bloomers, Marlin Bathers, Palestine Pals, Tulsa Oilers, Milwaukee Brewers (the 1920s American Association version), Louisville Colonels, Buffalo Bisons, Chattanooga Lookouts, Memphis Chickasaws (he went 27-6 in 1932!), Brooklyn Dodgers, Albany Senators, Mission Reds, Hollywood Stars, Seattle Rainiers (back to the PNW!), Philadelphia Phillies, Knoxville Smokies, Detroit Tigers, and Cincinnati Reds.
But Boom-Boom wasn’t done after his last major league game. He pitched in 1947 for the York White Roses, in 1947 for the Selma Cloverleafs, and in 1948 for the Fort Wayne Generals. After not pitching in 1949, Beck made seven appearances for the Toledo Mud Hens in 1950, at the age of 45.
As luck would have it, the end of Boom-Boom Beck’s playing career was immediately followed by the arrival on the scene of future Hockey Hall of Famer Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, who wore several fewer uniforms in his career, playing with the Canadiens from 1951-64, winning six Stanley Cups, then closing out his career with two seasons on the Rangers, in the finest tradition of over-the-hill legends getting a final revival on Broadway.
The Rangers didn’t win a Cup with Boom Boom, but they did hoist hockey’s grail in 1994 with Jeff Beukeboom as a key part of their defensive corps. In addition to scoring four of his 30 career goals against the Hartford Whalers, Beukeboom also came to blows (ahem) with the Whale on a couple of occasions, including dropping the gloves with Kelly Chase in 1995.
That incident in Connecticut was slightly less dramatic than the one in Oregon, 50 years ago. Happy anniversary, Exploding Whale.
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